FANDOM: The Chronicle: News From The Edge
PAIRING: Tucker Burns/Grace Hall/Wes Freewald
DISCLAIMERS: Completely and utterly the property of the Sci-Fi channel and Twentieth Century Fox, but as they didn't take good care of their toys, does this mean I can have them? No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: The entire series.
NOTES: Heaps of thanks go to trascendenza for providing a sounding board, screencaps, and quotes. Apologies for the delay.
The Chronicle: News From The Edge
So here's the deal.
In 2001 the SciFi channel premiered a new show, an hour-long scifi comedy called The Chronicle. It was loosely based on a series of books called News From The Edge. (I assume loosely, not having actually read the books myself. Amazon.com indicates that it's very loosely based, though.)
The series centered around young Tucker Burns, fresh out of college where he majored in journalism. Unable to find a job with any legit newspapers due to a blot on his record that we'll get around to later, Tucker turns in desperation to The World Chronicle, which is in search of a new reporter. He gets the job.
The first thing about The World Chronicle is that it's not a legit newspaper. It's a supermarket tabloid, of the variety that reports on Bigfoot, vampires, alien abductions, and Elvis sightings. Tucker's not happy about having been reduced to making up fiction for a supermarket tabloid, but, hell, it's a paycheck, right?
The second thing about The World Chronicle is—well, remember, it's a scifi show.
Everything the tabloid reports on is one hundred percent true.
This is something Tucker is forced to come to terms with—rapidly—over the course of the series, because the events he's investigating are not only real, they have a fairly good chance of being deadly if he doesn't take them seriously. Of course, he's not thrown out completely on his own; his coworkers help with the acclimatization. His photographer, Wes Freewald, has been around the supernatural block more than once; fellow reporter Grace Hall is a multiple alien-abductee willing to help Tucker out...as long as she gets a place on the byline; boss Donald Stern is a mysterious force with an even more mysterious background; and the keeper of the Chronicle's impressive archives, Sal, is a part-human part-pig who loves feeling like one of the guys. Meanwhile, on the outside is Kristen Martin, a girl Tucker went to college with, has a less-than-friendly rivalry with, and ends up dating fairly seriously while trying to coax her into accepting that the supernatural world coexists with and sometimes supercedes the rational explanations she reports on for the New York Times.
Sadly, The Chronicle only lasted one season, twenty-two episodes, before being prematurely cancelled. Nevertheless, in twenty-two episodes it crafted a compelling world filled with interesting, multidimensional characters.
Now to narrow the focus down to three of them.
Bring Me The Head of Tucker Burns
"Uh. Tuck's still suffering from a bit of post-supernatural stress disorder." – Wes Freewald, "What Gobbles Beneath"
Tucker Burns was a star.
He excelled in, um, pretty much everything. School specifically. He won a student Pulitzer for an article he wrote while at Columbia. Everyone expected him to continue this path of excellence after graduation.
Except that student Pulitzer got revoked when it turned out the article was fiction.
Not, I hasten to add, that Tucker was aware of this when he wrote it. He got conned by some hot girls with a sob story and a grudge against a professor. But nobody really cared. The truth got out, the award was revoked, and after graduation there wasn't a legitimate newspaper that would even consider hiring him. He and his girlfriend Shawna were about ready to give up on Tucker having a career as a journalist.
Until Donald Stern hired him as a reporter for The World Chronicle and Tucker, desperate for a paycheck, accepted.
He expected that his journalism credentials would go to waste, he'd write some bull about aliens and ghosts, and he'd get paid. Instead, he rapidly found himself thrown headfirst into the world of the supernatural, chasing after an alien for his first story with the help of Wes, an experienced Chronicle photographer.
Attempts to find rational explanations for everything that was happening consistently failed, and at last Tucker was forced to concede that he was dealing with an actual alien. He even pitched ideas for solving the dilemma that the alien was in.
It still took a while for him to accept the existence of supernatural reality as a whole, however. For several episodes he kept searching for rational explanations for the things he was investigating. Rarely did he find them. And eventually he came to accept his place in the world.
Of course, there were still a few slight bumps in his acceptance of his role in life as a Chronicle reporter.
One: Shawna dumped him. Because she thought he was crazy for believing in what he was reporting, basically. Ouch.
Two: He was still hanging on to a little journalistic elitism from his school days. He consistently identified himself as being from Newsweek (or Vanity Fair, or other legit publications) to other members of the press, to the people he was interviewing, and to old schoolmates. This prompted Grace and Wes to ask him rather bitterly if he was slumming with them.
Three: A couple of times he suggested sending articles to legit publications because they were, after all, legitimate stories. Donald explicitly informed him that no legit paper would accept an article written about supernatural occurrences by Tucker Burns, whose fabricated article lost him a student Pulitzer. This shame continued to hang over poor Tucker's head.
But by the end of the series, not only was Tucker actively chasing supernatural leads and accepting ghosts, time travel, and vampire Elvis impersonators as a matter of course, he was trying to recruit other people into accepting the supernatural and at peace with the fact that his professional colleagues would always consider him a tabloid writer.
I See Dead Fat People
"What's he so excited about?"
"Hey, if you were an overweight, tech-happy nerd as a teen, wouldn't you be excited coming back to high school looking the way Wes does now?"
"Point taken." – Tucker Burns and Grace Hall, "The Stepford Cheerleaders"
If Tucker Burns was a star, Wes Freewald was a crashed meteor. That metaphor sucks and I'm sorry but there you are.
As a kid, Wes was overweight, afraid of clowns (there's actually a fairly terrifying and traumatizing story behind that), too invested in comic books, and bullied mercilessly. High school was a nightmare for him. I empathize, I'm sure lots of other people do.
Then, Wes grew up.
Wes grew up hot.
This is pointed out repeatedly over the course of the series.
Not only did Wes grow up hot, he also grew up to discover a marked talent for photography. He scored a job with The World Chronicle and made a name for himself taking some seriously awesome pictures. And narrating for a series of videos the Chronicle produced about various supernatural threats, like dragons.
By the time we met Wes he was more or less at peace with himself, and certainly completely comfortable with his job and his task of coaxing Tucker out of denial about the supernatural. That doesn't mean he didn't encounter some bumps of his own along the way.
Let's start with that more or less at peace part.
Wes still had to deal with his issues about his childhood. One by one, he was forced into confronting his demons: one case forced him to deal with his torment over his childhood obesity. Another drove him to finally give up his over attachment to his comic book heroes. He was actually physically forced into a confrontation of his clown fears.
For one case, he, Tucker, and Grace went undercover as high school students. For Wes, he expected this to be a dream come true. He was grown-up, self-confident, skilled, and downright gorgeous.
Instead, he found out that high school bullies are eternal, and being incredibly hot and self-possessed is apparently not enough to spare you from their torment. Damn.
There was also some trauma about finding out his parents were swingers, but let's not go into that.
Tucker's character arc was all about figuring out who he is. Wes's character arc, in contrast, was all about letting go of who he was.
Touched by an Alien
"Okay, uh. You're a total boho, and you shop vintage. How did you become such an authority on rich-people stuff?" – Tucker Burns, "Let Sleeping Dogs Fry"
The first thing you should know about Grace is that aliens have abducted her. More than once. And more than one kind of alien. When people find out about this, they tend to assume she's crazy, which is one of the reasons why she's so very suited to a job as The World Chronicle's head reporter.
Now picture it: Little Grace Hall, the daughter of wealthy spray cheese moguls, groomed to follow in their footsteps. Instead, she calls alien abduction. Repeatedly. Needless to say, her parents do not take this well.
Grace harbored deep resentment towards her parents and carefully cultivated an image of bohemian carelessness that misled pretty much everyone. No one guessed that she came from money—and when Wes and Tucker found out, let's just say they got a few good laughs out of it.
Anyway. The abductions did more than screw up Grace's relationship with her parents—and to be honest, that relationship might have been irredeemably screwed even without the aliens. They also left her with a strong inclination towards investigating the supernatural, a fear of getting too close to other people, and a paranoia that she kept firmly locked in denial until forced to deal with it.
The careless artsy reporter front hid more than just an alien abduction story and a pampered past, however. It also hid a girl who's more preoccupied with her appearance than she lets on—when she is deprived of her hairdryer in Let Sleeping Dogs Fry, she nearly loses it completely—and someone who cares more deeply than you might expect. I could bring up the dead ferret that had her in tears for a full episode, or how attached she got to the demon-possessed toddler in Baby Got Back, or her attempts at turning The World Chronicle into a democratically-run organization. In the interest of time and space, I'll just leave it at those brief, tantalizing synopses.
So Tucker's arc was about accepting who he is; Wes's arc was about letting go of who he was; Grace's arc was about learning to trust the people around her. One storyarc of the season involved Grace learning to accept her desire to have a deeper relationship, and trusting in boyfriend Dennis. She initially broke things off with Dennis to avoid having to tell him the truth about her abductions and being rejected as crazy; after an incident with a possessed oven, she came out to him and found someone she could trust, who wouldn't reject her.
The Other Love Interests
Bermuda Love Triangle
"I can't believe I'm saying this, but...I gotta go." – Grace Hall, "Only The Young Die Good"
It's your typical problem of canon, that of the writers giving the main characters love interests who are not each other. Sucks, but it's a fact of fandom.
Anyway, The Chronicle writers were kind enough to not only give Tucker, Wes, and Grace alternate love interests, but also to take them away. Yay!
Here's the quick rundown:
Tucker, as previously mentioned, began the series with a girlfriend, Shawna. She broke up with him shortly after he got the job with The World Chronicle, because she figured he was either crazy or getting conned again, and either way he wasn't listening to reason. They later gave their relationship one more go, but she just really honestly couldn't deal with the idea of the supernatural. Fair enough.
Tucker also hooked up with his college nemesis, Kristen, in a relationship fraught with conflict, snark, presumably hot sex, and a lot of arguments along the lines of "The supernatural is real!" "No it's not!" "Yes it is! And The Chronicle prints real articles!" "Nuh-uh!" Only more grown-up and with bigger words. Eventually, Kristen was forced into accepting the reality of The Chronicle's stories, and the supernatural world in general. This briefly led to her growing closer to Tucker, but ultimately caused her to break up with him as she accepted that her worldview was incompatible with his day-to-day encounters with ghosts, dragons, cancerous underground monsters, and vampire Elvis impersonators.
Grace had several allusions to an off-screen love life (she was disgusted by the Antichrist looking down her shirt; she had a relationship with a vampire that ended two dates after she discovered that he was a vampire), but it was established that she had difficulty letting relationships last longer than two weeks. Commitment issues, you know. Dennis, who was actually fairly lovely, managed to get her past that issue; he wouldn't let her end their relationship, and when she finally admitted the truth about her alien-abduction past, he stuck around. Cheers for Dennis, but sadly his job eventually required him to move and they mutually decided to break it off. Sad for them. Good for us.
Grace's only other notable onscreen romance was with Louis, a time traveler from the future who had been placed in a sort of temporal Witness Protection Program because he was going to testify against the Swedish Mob. After far too little development into this relationship, she wound up going with him into the past. That, of course, was the season/series finale so we have no idea how that would have played out, but in my head, at least, Grace would have come back—with or without Louis—and wound up continuing to report on the supernatural with Wes and Tucker.
Wes had no major onscreen romances. There were several allusions to girlfriends, but we never met any of them and they never seemed to be particularly serious relationships.
So, aside from the underdeveloped Louis, no major threats to an OT3.
"Mother, the only people who like N'Sync are teenage girls and gay men." – Grace Hall, "Tears of a Clone"
If The Chronicle had a thriving online fandom, I have absolutely no doubt that Tucker/Wes would be the major pairing of choice. For one, they're the hot male leads. For another, they have so much chemistry that they practically crackle. And finally, they have so much subtext that...well, let's be honest, it's not even subtext. It's text.
We're not talking your average buddy-work-partners pairing here.
Right from the beginning, they openly check each other out. In the second episode, "What Gobbles Beneath", Wes goes to lengths to convince Tucker to move in with him, offers him his choice of beds, and is blatantly happy to learn that it's going to be a long-term arrangement. Tucker spends sizeable portions of both "I See Dead Fat People" and "The Stepford Cheerleaders" remarking on the fact that Wes is hot. "Tears of A Clone" has a major subplot in Grace's mother assuming that Tucker and Wes are together romantically, and repeatedly finding them in positions to support that assumption, while in "A Snitch In Time" they go undercover as a stereotypical gay couple at Ikea. Besides, they touch far more than any heterosexual same-sex friends touch.
But that's all fairly superficial. There's also the way that they confide in each other, almost from as soon as they meet. Even before they're officially assigned to work together, Wes helpfully advises Tucker in how to survive working at the Chronicle. Wes is a steady and unflinching help to Tucker in his immersion in the supernatural; Tucker is sensitive and patient with Wes's own issues.
And, of course, there's that adorable look that Tucker gives Wes immediately after introductions are made. I mean, really, what more do you need?
"The two of you, you're both insecure around each other and I don't know why because you're both so good at your job. And so am I, but I can't work like this with you two fighting all the time! So please, please just stop it now." – Wes Freewald, "The Mists of Avalon"
That rant is actually a lot longer, but I cut out most of it to for the sake of space. But it sums up Tucker and Grace's relationship very, very well.
In a lot of ways they're the same. They're competitive, talented, and jealous of professional accomplishments. Tucker gets insecure because Grace works by intuition and is vastly more experienced than he is; Grace gets insecure because Tucker went to college and has the degree and she doesn't. All of this implodes in "The Mists of Avalon".
Throughout the rest of the series, they bounce back and forth between professional competition, usually over who gets the cover story, and helping each other out. Despite the rivalry, there's never a doubt that they're friends; while they aren't as snuggly as Tucker/Wes or Wes/Grace, they confide in each other often. Grace is the first person Tucker tells the truth to about what happened with his student Pulitzer. Tucker offers Grace advice about her commitment phobia. They're soft with each other as often as they are prickly.
If we had a big fandom, this would in all likelihood be the main het ship. It's just plain obvious.
"I don't even wanna know what you're afraid of, all right, 'cause you're the toughest woman I know." – Wes Freewald, "Hot From The Oven"
Wes and Grace are the couple with the history. They've known each other since long before the series starts, and that comes out in their interactions. They're obviously good friends; they have in-jokes and tease each other affectionately, worry about one another when danger enters the picture, and they're snuggly.
And then, well, there's the fact that there's that red leather jacket that they've both been seen wearing. And some of that snuggliness is fairly sexualized, whether it's Wes's hand on Grace's hip or Grace draping herself over Wes almost full body. Wes calls Grace "baby" more than once...to be fair, Wes calls an awful lot of people, aliens, and things "baby", but he tends to sound more tender and affectionate with Grace than with his photography subjects and informants. Grace has a nickname for Wes, "Scarecrow", and in "A Snitch In Time" softly tells him that she's going to miss him most of all:
WES: "Miss me? Where you going?"
GRACE: "To the bathroom. Remember me. Miss Microbladder."
In a big fandom, Wes/Grace might have been drowned out by Tucker/Wes and Tucker/Grace, but I would put money on it having a dedicated following.
"You want us to pretend our real stories are fake stories we think are real stories."
"It's like Rock Hudson in Pillow Talk. You know, a gay man pretending to be a straight man pretending to be straight man pretending to be a gay man." – Grace Hall, Tucker Burns, and Wes Freewald, "He's Dead, She's Dead"
So, why OT3 them instead of just shipping Tucker/Wes or Tucker/Grace or Wes/Grace? First of all, nobody wants to break up a team as awesome as those three; ship just two of them together and the third is left out in the cold, and doesn't that just make you feel guilty? Secondly, the chemistry between the three of them is so intense that anything that interrupts them as a trio just feels incomplete.
Or, as trascendenza put it:
[S]eparately, each of them is fun, unique, interesting, and a fully developed character in their own right. But together, they’re like that hot fudge sundae that has so many toppings you’re a little hard pressed to find the ice cream underneath—these three have it all. Razor-sharp intelligence, a good photographer’s eye, healthy skepticism, extensive knowledge of the paranormal, and—most importantly—a good fashion sense.
They click in just the way that every great team should: they know how to work together to track down their story, but also how to joke, how to poke fun and irritate one another, and how to teach each other. (A la Wes educating Tucker on comics.) Hot From the Oven was a great example of this—each of them was facing their greatest fear, and it was only with the help of the other two that they could overcome it. They constantly talk to each other about their relationship issues, and know, that when they need to call someone to help, exactly who they can turn to.
They also complement each other in many, many ways. Grace’s dogged determination and slight neuroticism keep Wes and Tucker on track. Wes’s sense of fun and adventure help keep Tucker and Grace from getting too serious, and he has a level of empathy for the subjects of their stories that the other two aren’t always able to. Tucker’s inexperience offers Grace and Wes a fresh perspective and moderates their readiness to accept everything they encounter and helps keep them grounded.
Tucker/Grace/Wes is sexy, tough, smart, and very, very pretty. They're the OT3 that will storm down ghosts and dragons and vampires, nearly die, save the world, write an article about the whole mess, and when the day is over, will still be laughing and flirting and snuggling.
What's not to love?
"That's weak. Aquaman could have done better than that." – Wes Freewald, "Man and Superman"
Okay, so there's not much of a fandom.
At the moment, the active fandom—all three of us—is based out of heard_of_it—specifically, join and check out everything listed under The Chronicle tag.
Fanfiction.Net has a Chronicle category, with a not encouraging selection of fics which could surely use the rejuvenating influence of a fandom revival.
The Chronicle fandom is a slow and small but growing thing. Come join in the fun of sexy reporters and photographers, as well as pig-boys, aliens, vampire Elvises, overweight ghosts, and much, much more.